tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 9, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
on the broadcast tonight, under pressure. inside egypt, the workers now revolt, and from outside, new demands from the u.s. and the arab world. finding her voice. news tonight about some big strides for congresswoman gabby giffords in her recovery. diet soda is in the news tonight, specifically about a possible health risk to those who drink it. and going to bat for one of his players. a coach's extraordinary sacrifice that may have saved a young man's life. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. over the past 24 hours, we've seen some of the biggest crowds
ever in that main square in cairo. tonight we're seeing something else. this people's revolt is spreading to other fronts in ways that will further pressure egyptian authorities, and more pressure is being applied from the outside now on a regime that is still there, still in place and in charge. again tonight to cairo we go and our chief foreign correspondent richard engel. richard, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. a new group of egyptians joined this movement today, government workers. a threat to a regime desperate to keep the economy going. the revolt is spreading to where egypt could feel it most, its workforce. for the first time there were dozens of spontaneous strikes across egypt. in at least 14 key industries. including oil and gas, electricity and near the suez canal itself. at the oil ministry, hundreds protested against unfair wages and mismanagement.
hundreds more spilled outside cairo's electric company. they called president mubarak a dictator. but the real anger was directed at their bosses, allowed to prosper in a corrupt system. when we arrived, we were surrounded. as workers unleashed frustration, pent up for years. the manager only appoints members of his family, a man screamed. pay isn't enough, and it's delayed, they complained. they say they're going on strike not only for democracy, but for basic workers' rights. pressure is also mounting on egypt's vice president, omar suleiman, the former intelligence chief and a close ally of the united states. almost daily he gets calls from vice president biden, asking for, quote, immediate, irreversible progress that responds to the aspirations of the egyptian people. the united states wants egypt to stop arresting journalists and activists, immediately lift
martial law and widen negotiations to include more of the opposition. but pressure is also coming from israel, jordan, saudi arabia and the united arab emirates for egypt to go slow, fearing a wave of instability across the middle east that could benefit extremists. and then there's the protesters themselves, still defiant past the point of no return. many believe if they stop and the government stays, they'll be arrested or worse. >> so you think if you back down now -- >> we'll be hanged and be in jail. they assure us they will not penalize anybody who contribute to this revolution. lots of lies. >> reporter: the government statements are having almost no impact on the demonstrators. they say they can't be tricked by promises of compromise or frightened away by threats. >> i don't think you can stand up against the whole population of the city. the whole population of egypt is against the regime, the revolution is here.
>> reporter: more strikes are planned for tomorrow. demonstrators are calling for millions to take to the streets on friday. demonstrators tonight, brian, are already sending out text messages to organize for friday's protests. they could be the biggest yet. brian. >> richard engel starting us off in cairo again tonight. richard, thanks. mary thornberry is finally back home with her son in seattle. the 76-year-old american woman who was trapped and had to defend herself in her own apartment just off that square in cairo was finally rescued. she spent some time with us on monday in new york. today she visited her son's high school social studies class, where they watched our interview that we conducted with her as a group. another big story tonight, it's been a month and a day since arizona congresswoman gabby giffords was shot in the head as she met with constituents outside a supermarket. well, tonight the latest measure of her incredible recovery so far, she is apparently now speaking.
our own janet shamlian has the latest from the rehab hospital there in houston. hey, janet, good evening. >> reporter: hi, brian. it was perhaps the biggest question about her condition after the congresswoman was shot. would she ever again be able to speak. well, tonight we may have an answer. it was a single word but it signified an immeasurable step forward in the recovery of gabrielle giffords. at a houston rehab center giffords said "toast" when she was served her breakfast on monday her spokesman confirmed. it may not have been her first word but it confirms what was previously uncertain. giffords can speak. >> she's a hard worker so i'm pretty sure her recovery will be phenomenal. >> reporter: there's more news, her husband, astronaut mark kelly, writing on giffords' facebook page, gabby's appetite is back and even though it's hospital food, she's enjoying three meals a day. when she was shot a month ago the bullet pierced the left side of her brain, the side that controls speech, so there were questions about her ability to
speak. her doctors say she continues to improve. >> we're very much encouraged by the progress that she has demonstrated and we're very happy that she's challenging us to come up with a tougher rehabilitation program for her. >> the speech therapy has been ongoing and she's certainly doing very well. >> reporter: mark kelly, who has resumed his training for the space shuttle "endeavour" mission is inspired by his wife's progress but a realist about the road ahead. writing on facebook, the doctors say she is recovering at lightning speed considering her injury, but they aren't kidding when they say this is a marathon process. still a long road ahead, but now with one less hurdle. giffords is continuing her rehabilitation tonight in the building right behind me. there is a lot of work ahead, but, brian, everyone is encouraged by this development. >> we'll take the good news, janet shamlian reporting from houston tonight. janet, thanks. we have breaking news tonight from capitol hill in washington.
a member of congress has suddenly resigned in a highly personal e-mail and photo scandal. let's go to our capitol hill correspondent, kelly o'donnell, for an update tonight. kelly, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. this was incredibly abrupt. within hours after the scandal broke, the western upstate new york republican, chris lee, is out. now, a web-based gossip site had published a story today that said that lee had sent a shirtless photo of himself to a woman that he had made contact with through the site craigslist. now, congressman lee, who is married and a father, immediately made a decision to step down. he sent word to his colleagues on the house floor today in a message that was read by the clerk. >> i hereby give notice of my resignation from the united states house of representatives. >> reporter: lee also put out a written statement saying he has regrets the harm that his actions have caused his family, his staff and constituents. he apologized for profound mistakes.
attacks nearly ten years ago on 9/11. the second largest bank in measure, jpmorgan chase, admitted today it had mistreated thousands of the nation's men and women in uniform by overcharging them on their mortgages or outright foreclosing on their homes. in some cases, it happened while they were on war duty in iraq or afghanistan. the admission came after an exclusive report by our own senior investigative correspondent, lisa myers, who has our follow-up report tonight. >> reporter: army lieutenant colonel sarah smith and her family were foreclosed on by chase almost two years ago, while she was on active duty in
iraq. >> i remember it being very difficult, very hard. >> we love you, honey. >> reporter: marine captain jonathan rolls and his wife, julia, were overcharged by chase for their mortgage, then harassed for money they did not owe. today the couple told an outraged congressional committee they had been battling chase for five years. >> we've spoken with managers in south carolina to texas to california. nobody knew how to fix our problem. >> you spend your time trying to not worry about home, and it's still in the back of your mind when you're fighting. >> reporter: to spare troops financial stress while in harm's way, federal law limits how much interest they can be charged and generally prohibits foreclosures while on active duty. chase acknowledged today that it had inadvertently violated that
law, overcharging 4500 troops, and wrongly foreclosing on 18 of them. >> we are deeply disappointed that we have let down the men and women of our military. >> reporter: the bank says it has reached settlements with most of those wrongly foreclosed on, and is refunding $2.4 million to those overcharged. but both republicans and democrats say that's not nearly enough. >> your bank broke the law. shouldn't someone go to jail for that? >> it's unamerican, unpatriotic. >> reporter: a federal prosecutor now is investigating whether chase should face civil charges for violating the rights of those in harm's way. lisa myers, nbc news, washington. and new health concerns are being raised tonight about diet soda and people who drink it every day. a new study has found what seems to be a connection between daily consumption of diet soda and heart attacks and strokes and a whole lot of people who drink a ton of it are about to sit up
and take notice. our own tom costello with us tonight from washington. hey, tom, good evening. >> reporter: hi, brian. the study was done by researchers at the university of miami med center and columbia university. the question is whether there's something in diet soda, perhaps the sodium, that raises the risk of these events. the study followed more than 2500 new yorkers for more than nine years. the average age, 69. among those who drank diet soda every day, there was a 61% higher risk of heart attack and stroke compared to those who avoided diet sodas. >> i think this study is consistent with other studies indicating a possible association between frequent diet soda consumption and vascular disease risk. >> reporter: in the u.s., stroke is the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. more than 137,000 people die every year. a leading nutritionist says she'd like to see americans cut back on diet sodas.
>> you know, occasionally once or twice a week that's just fine, but the reality is, is that there are many people out there that are getting three and four diet sodas a day and those are the people i'm particularly worried about. >> reporter: but in a statement today, the american beverage association says there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that diet soda uniquely causes increased risk of vascular event or stroke. the association goes on to say it appears that the investigators failed to control for two important variables, family history of stroke and weight gain in their analysis. it's important to note that this study was not peer reviewed, which is the most rigorous type of scrutiny given medical studies and it's not clear whether diet soda drinkers have something else in common that could be a contributor. brian. >> tells me we'll be hearing more about this one. tom costello in washington. tom, thanks. when we come back here tonight, new research on how doctors can fix a serious problem for the smallest patients. a huge relief for their parents. and later, a big-time college coach makes an
mentioned this earlier, we have news tonight about one of the most common birth defects, spina bifida, which occurs when an opening appears in the spinal cord of an unborn child. it can have, as you may know, serious consequences, ranging from paralysis, mental disabilities, even death. now researchers have found it's possible to repair the problem while the child is still in the womb, and that could change the lives of thousands of american families. our report tonight from our chief science correspondent, robert bazell. >> reporter: 3-year-old thomas is one of the success stories in the ground-breaking nine-year study of fetal surgery for the worst type of a common birth defect, spina bifida. like most couples, heather and brian found that their baby had the characteristic hole in the spine during an ultrasound. >> okay, we're going for this.
>> reporter: then they learned about an experimental surgery, and were determined to get it. >> i was telling myself, all right, baby, we're going to get you this surgery, we're going to close your back and do as much as we can to help you walk as well as you can. >> reporter: the study of 183 surgeries found that the operations in the womb left kids with 30% fewer problems than the standard treatment, surgery right after birth. the trial was totally randomized. the mothers had to agree that a computer would decide whether they would get the fetal surgery or the child would be operated on right after birth. heather was chosen for the fetal surgery, where in a two and a half hour operation doctors cut into the womb and fix the fetus's spine, a very delicate procedure. >> i thought it was important that we establish a bar for maternal safety and that we be absolutely certain that this was warranted, that the outcomes were good. >> reporter: they were. as for thomas, he still has trouble walking, but he does not
need a shunt for cerebrospinal fluid and he is free from mental problems. >> what's this? >> it's an emergency helicopter. >> reporter: two common complications of the disorder. >> it looks like it rubs right up against the uterine wall. >> reporter: as doctors say, this could open a new era in fetal medicine. for thousands of kids like thomas and their families. robert bazell, nbc news, san francisco. and we learned something about the first family today. up next after a break, why the obamas, like a lot of other parents, have made one very popular place off limits for their two girls.
temperatures are 25 degrees below normal. schools, airports, government offices, businesses all closed and blowing snow made driving absolutely impossible in some places. and remember these are a lot of places not used to conditions like this. last night we told you about a new revelation from first lady michelle obama. she said and with certainty really for the first time her husband, the president, has quit smoking. well, this morning in an interview with matt lauer here on the "today" show, the first lady revealed there's still no facebook in their household for the obama girls. >> sasha and malia, are they on facebook? >> no. >> is that because of who they are or because you're not in favor of it? >> i think we're lucky that there are a lot of real constraints, things like secret service and stuff like that. but i don't -- i'm not a big fan of young kids having facebook, so i -- you know, it's not something they need. it's not necessary right now.
>> when they leave the white house, they're going to want to be on facebook. you okay with that? >> it depends on when we leave and how old they are. >> if they're 40? >> maybe -- we'll talk about it. on another subject, the upcoming royal wedding in the u.k., mrs. obama said that if she's invited, which so far she has not been, she will indeed go. when you travel these days, they tell us if you see something, say something. well, that also applies to hearing things in some cases. like the people who heard something beneath their feet prior to takeoff on a recent u.s. airways flight from d.c. to hartford. it was a baggage handler in the cargo hold, locked in there yelling and pounding until the first officer stopped the aircraft. the employee was working in there when someone closed the hatch. when we come back, a coach who stepped up big time in a life-saving way for one of his players.
his kidneys were failing. with almost 88,000 americans on the waiting list, he didn't have time to join them in waiting for an anonymous donor. our report tonight from nbc's ron mott in atlanta. >> reporter: on the diamond, kevin jordan is a jewel of a player, sporting a coveted mix of power and speed. but the freshman outfielder, yet to play his first college game, couldn't outrun the disease killing his kidneys, something called anca vasculitis. it struck just months after he signed to play at wake forest. he went from healthy up to 20 hours of dialysis a day. he needed a transplant. time was running out. >> two days ago kevin had kidney failure. one day and 23 hours ago he didn't. and that's the really remarkable thing about this situation that he was in. >> reporter: when a donor couldn't be found in his family, his coach, tom walter, stepped up to the plate and scored. a perfect match.
>> you know, baseball is not the number one priority in our lives. this whole process has never been about getting kevin back on the field. this has always been about kevin having a chance at a normal life. >> reporter: kevin is not giving up on returning to his field of dreams, no matter how tough the recovery might be. in fact doctors say he could at least start swinging again, though probably not playing, in about eight weeks. for kevin, those eight weeks can't get here fast enough. >> definitely going to play hard. whatever he asks me to do, get the bunt down, make sure i've got to do that. i couldn't see myself saying no. i've got a part of his body in mine. >> reporter: a coach going to bat for a player. >> eight weeks swinging a bat. >> reporter: winning more than just a game. ron mott, nbc news, atlanta. >> how about that. that's our broadcast for this wednesday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night.